‘Tragedies of Shakespearian magnitudes’ halt second annual festival

Festival organizer Zak Krebs is optimistic the Big Rapids Shakespeare Festival will resume next year. (Pioneer File Photo)

BIG RAPIDS — While organizers tried hard to make sure the Big Rapids Shakespeare Festival was to be, in the end, it was not to be.

“Tragedies of Shakespearian magnitudes befell us,” said Zak Krebs, event organizer.

After launching in 2012 with three performances of “As You Like It,” the festival seemed ready for bigger things this year with “Romeo and Juliet.”

However, after Rod Oden, another event organizer, moved to Manistee because of his job, the time available for rehearsals was cut drastically. Because Oden handled the technical aspects of the play, such as the sword fight scenes, pratices turned into “marathon sessions,” due to his long commute.

“The fight choreography is obviously big for Romeo,” Krebs said. “And the safety of the actors is paramount.”

Schedule conflicts for several actors involved in the production further complicated matters. The final strike was when Oden received a job offer in West Virginia, which he accepted.

“Rod would give you the shirt off his back,” Krebs said. “Finally, I had to go to him say, ‘I release you’ to do what you need to do (with your family).”

While Big Rapids may not experience a full Shakespearian play this year, there will still be some some influence from the bard in store later this month at the annual River Days Festival.

After working with STAGE-M, Krebs reached out to Stefan Wolfert, a long-time friend and an army veteran, who will bring his one-man show to Hemlock Park for performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Wolfert’s production integrates characters from Shakespeare and his military experience, allowing both military servicemembers and the general public to relate.

“I’m really excited to have Stefan coming into town and to have the festival represented this year,” Krebs said. “He’s using Shakespeare’s words to describe the transition into civilian life.”

The Riverdays Festival runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2. Times for Wolfert’s performances are not yet available, though he will perform at least once on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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